Startup companies face unique challenges when it comes to Internet infrastructure. Decisions about servers and technology are often based on what you can afford and what will meet your requirements in the short term. But while your initial prototype may not require a powerful infrastructure, the technical needs of your customers will become more complex as business grows.
Finding the right service provider to meet new requirements is challenging for startups. Increased customization and the ability to scale without sacrificing performance are difficult to achieve, and vendor contracts aren’t always startup-friendly.
Distil Networks’ customers began experiencing latency issues as a result of increased network traffic, and the company needed to expand its footprint in North America to get closer to users and reduce latency. But in many cases, the locations and services that Distil Networks required were only available from enterprise-class managed hosting providers with enterprise-class prices, according to Distil Networks CTO Engin Akyol.
As Distil Networks grew, it required a more customized infrastructure to meet its evolving technology needs. And of course, it needed to address all these needs in a cost-efficient manner for their limited startup budget.
A few requirements emerged that are unique to Distil Networks’ global CDN-based bot-blocking software. Taking on more customers required an anycast network with anycast IP routing to allow Distil Networks to advertise an IP prefix from multiple data centers. Additionally, global customers required functionality that wasn’t supported by off-the-shelf load balancers, but the company couldn’t afford to upgrade to the higher tier model that provided the features they needed.
Performance and scale
Distil Networks offers a latency-sensitive CDN-like service that requires raw CPU power, and the performance of its cloud instances was unpredictable. To support traffic surges without overprovisioning resources, the company needed the performance of physical servers with the scalability of cloud. But using a mix of providers to achieve the desired performance levels comes with its own set of challenges.
Finding startup-friendly service providers
Simply put, many service provider contracts aren’t startup-friendly. Starting a business involves risk and uncertainty, which often makes investing in long-term infrastructure or committing to long-term contracts unfeasible. As a result, many service providers are out of reach for startups, either because prices are too high or terms are too long.
The one rack you need in a colocation facility won’t give you any leverage on price with larger vendors and commodity cloud providers. But if things go well, the one rack you need today may multiply to 20 by the end of the year, and finding a provider that understands the growth potential of your business can help you secure a better contract.
One of the most valuable lessons learned by Distil Networks is this: Don’t underestimate the amount of time you will spend negotiating prices and figuring out invoices from different providers. The more vendors you use, the more difficult this process becomes.
From a technology perspective, one provider also means one set of rules when integrating APIs. This helped Distil Networks streamline their deployment process and get customers up and running more quickly. Trying to integrate different API rules for multiple providers was a nightmare.
For startups, most things ultimately come down to cost. Distil Networks used Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its initial prototype, but because of increasing costs, the company limited its use and eventually transitioned to Internap.
Keep an eye out for “hidden” costs, too. Be sure to clarify what is metered and what isn’t; for example, some cloud providers charge per request instead of metering only storage and transfer, which can result in unexpected costs.
Support may also cost extra. Distil Networks was required to pay an additional amount, which was a percentage of their total bill, simply to get Amazon to answer their emails.
Finding high-performance infrastructure at the right price isn’t always possible with large enterprise-class vendors. By consolidating its infrastructure with Internap, Distil Networks has successfully transitioned from a SMB-focused tech startup to an enterprise-class bot blocking machine.
Learn more in the Distil Networks case study.